According to the latest Catholic Climate Covenant’s weekly update “German auto-manufacturer Mercedes-Benz is constructing a hybrid Popemobile for Benedict XVI, and the new vehicle is expected to be ready by 2012. The new Popemobile is reportedly adapted from the 4WD M Class Mercedes, and will be powered by a hybrid electric-gas motor with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The new Popemobile will have the capacity to travel 16 miles without emitting any greenhouse gases.”
The new Popemobile is the latest effort of Pope Benedict XVI to insist on our responsibility toward the ecological crises we live in.
Benedict XVI with this new Popemobile is also recalling the long tradition of Catholic social teaching regarding the environment, from the Second Vatican Council to Paul VI and John Paul II’s documents. In early 1990, John Paul II wrote: “There is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened … also by a lack of due respect for nature.” He added that “ecological awareness, rather than being downplayed, needs to be helped to develop and mature, and find fitting expression in concrete programs and initiatives.” This statement recalls Octogesima Adveniens from 1971, where Paul VI viewed the environment as one of the new social problems.
For Pope Benedict as well as for his predecessors, the ecological crisis is “closely linked to the notion of development itself and our understanding of humans in their relationship to others and to the rest of creation.”
In the book of Genesis, human beings are commanded to “fill the earth” and to “have dominion,” but this commandment has been understood in the wrong way and the consequences of it can be visible in the actual rampant destruction of the environment symbolized in such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions.
This destruction is also the consequence of our selfishness and our refusal to accept the environment, the creation, as God’s gift for all. As Pope Benedict says in Caritas in Veritate, “the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations.”
“Exercising dominion” over the creation commanded by God is to be understood as being stewards, caretakers, and good administrators of the creation, of the environment. The dominion over the earth “was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility.”
This responsibility has been assumed by Benedict XVI no just with words but actions, such as this new Popemobile.
Nelson Araque is from Bogota, Colombia and he lives in Dania Beach, FL with his wife and his daughter. He teaches at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Mr. Araque holds a B.A in Philosophy and Literature from Universidad de La Salle in Bogota, Colombia, a M.A. in Pastoral Ministries from St. Thomas University in Miami and he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Theology at Barry University where he hopes to receive a D. Min soon.
Mr. Araque is also a Catholic Climate Ambassador and you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org